What you believe about a person effects how you relate to them. If you believe a person to be full of integrity, you will not have a problem trusting things into their hands. If you believe someone to be a liar, you will not act based on the information they give to you. If you believe someone to be a gossip, you will not tell them personal facts you don’t want to others to know. If you believe someone is experienced and able to give wise counsel, you will seek them out when you think you need help. If you believe someone is merciless, you will not subject yourself to their actions. If you believe someone is compassionate, you will likely seek comfort from them. If you believe someone is influential, you may desire their approval. If you believe someone is respectable, you will show them respect.
Note that in all of these examples there can be a difference between what you believe about a person and what is actually true about a person. Just because you believe that someone lacks compassion doesn’t mean they actually do. An important question to ask is, “How did I come to believe this about this person?” Your perception of another may be influenced by a great number of factors, such as a past experience with the person, information about the person provided by other sources (other people or media for example), what you’ve been taught about the idea or institution the person identifies with, the way the larger surrounding culture views the person and their actions, and more. There may be little or no difference between what you believe about a person and how they actually are. But there is a possibility that what you believe about a person isn’t necessarily in agreement with the facts about the person.
The point is this: your actions towards a person are based on your belief of who they and the situation around you are like. First there is the belief, then there is the action that reveals that belief. Or if you would like, you can look at it in reverse and say that your actions will reveal what you truly believe. We are probably all familiar with someone whose actions have contradicted what they said they believed. In fact, it is impossible to not be such a person yourself at some point in time.
Whatever you may be thinking right now, I want to draw your attention to one of the most important questions (or the single most important question) you can ever ask yourself or other people. I especially find this question helpful when talking to people who say they’re Christians, people that identify with another religion entirely, or people do not identify with any religion at all. Here it is: “What do you believe about Jesus Christ?” It’s a simple question to ask, but it’s answer cuts to the root of a person’s heart and has eternal consequences.
With Jesus Christ, more than any other person, what you believe about Him needs to be consistent with the facts. If a person believes that your name and age are different than what they actually are, who you are does not change to fit their beliefs. The facts about you are still the same. So it is with Jesus Christ. People and secular culture and religious individuals do not define who Jesus Christ is. Nor do people have the ability to believe whatever they want about Him and somehow avoid the eternal significance of the issue. Nor do they do get to shape Jesus to fit whatever they think He should be like. Nor do they get to come to Him any way they want and ignore what He says about Himself. So, who is Jesus?
And He Shall Be Called…
Jesus is the main point of the Bible. Jesus is the center of all of history. If at any point we read the Bible and think that the mere human characters and their situation are the main focus, we are in error. From the opening words of Genesis to the last page of Revelation, it’s God’s story. All throughout salvation history, God revealed different parts of His redemptive plan. It is incredible how many different things are said about Christ in the Old Testament and how many prophecies and roles He fulfills in the New Testament. There’s so many things to be said. There are too many wonders to talk about in a brief article like this. I hope the following helps those who read it understand something about who Jesus is. Afterward, I’ll address some implications and conclusions.
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus made claims to be the Son of God. In what is probably the most famous verse in the entire Bible, Jesus calls Himself God’s Son, saying that He had been given so that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life (John 3:16). What it means for Jesus to be God’s Son has been understood differently by people. For example, the Mormons believe that Jesus is the result of a sexual union between God the Father (in Mormonism believed to be a physical man that became “God”), and a female. Muslims form the common misconception that what is meant by the title is that God had sex with Mary and the result is two gods, the Father and the Son.
However, the Bible is clear that Jesus is not a son in the sense that He is the result of a sexual union. The Bible is equally clear that there is only one God. One way to explain the biblical teaching is to say that the title, “Son of God,” is an assertion of Jesus’ personal deity. J. I. Packer argues this in his book “Knowing God“. The reasons are apparent in the opening of John’s gospel in 1:1, 1:3, 1:14, and 1:18.
Jesus being God’s Son means at least two things: (1) Jesus has a personal, intimate relationship with God the Father that He has had from eternity and (2) God gave something that is very precious to Him in order that we could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).
Jesus Is Eternal
Jesus Christ has always existed as God the Son, the second member of the holy Trinity. Jesus did not come into existence when He became a baby in Mary’s womb. He has always existed, having no beginning and no end. The Bible teaches this in several places. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). The Word is identified as Christ in verse 14 of the same chapter: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The book of Hebrews says of Jesus, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain… you are the same, and your years will have no end” (Hebrews 1:10-12 quoting Psalm 102:25-27).
Jesus Is the Creator of All
Already spoken of in the verses from Hebrews above, Scripture teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). Again, the book of Hebrews talks about Jesus Christ, saying that He is the agent of creation and the sustainer of all things: “…he created the world… and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:2-3). Therefore, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the One who “created the heavens and the earth” at the beginning (Genesis 1:1) and is the One that continually sustains all creation now.
Jesus Is the Greatest and Final Revelation of God
Throughout Scripture, God revealed Himself and His plan of salvation progressively. Reading through the Old Testament, you see some God’s character and then a little more of it later on. There is no single moment in the Old Testament where God definitively and ultimately revealed Himself. That changes in the New Testament, which tells us that Jesus Christ is the ultimate and final revelation of God to man.
Look at the following: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” John 1:18. That may sound confusing, so I’ll try to explain it. “No one has ever seen God [the Father]; the only God [the Son Jesus Christ], who is at the Father’s side, he [the Son] has made him [the Father] known.” Remember from earlier that John is talking about the Word here, who is identified as Jesus. In this verse, John is talking about how Jesus reveals God the Father to humanity. As in verse 1 quoted above, John is referring to two persons as God. He is not referring to two gods, but John is giving a piece of the doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches that there is one God that exists in three persons. In John 1:18, Jesus is said to make the Father known. Elsewhere in the gospel of John Jesus says that He only says and does what the Father says and does (5:19, 30, 7:16, 8:28-29).
Other places in Scripture also teach this. For example, the book of Colossians says of Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). The word “image” in the Greek carries the meaning that Jesus is the image of God in the sense that He is exactly the same as God. The Bible also says that Jesus is the last and greatest prophet, indicating that God’s work of revealing Himself is complete: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Like all the other prophets, Jesus revealed God. However, instead of just having the words of God to speak to the people, Jesus is the Word of God, who has come in the “last days.” The fullest revelation of God is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Is the Heir of All Things
Jesus owns everything in the universe. Everything that God the Father owns, Jesus owns. “…his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). The already quoted verse from Hebrews and Paul’s writing in Colossians both teach that Christ has rights to all that the Father has. In Colossians, Paul is using the Jewish understanding of the firstborn. Jesus is the “firstborn” of creation in the sense that He has rights to creation, just as the firstborn in Jewish culture received a large inheritance from their father.
Now, to be sure, the metaphor of “heir” doesn’t extend forever. Jesus doesn’t get all of God the Father’s possessions when the Father dies. That’s terrible theology. God cannot die. What the Bible is saying is that Jesus is the rightful owner of the universe, having been given all things by the Father (see Matthew 28:18). As the rightful owner, He can do whatever He wants to with what is His, and He can do it however He wants to. He directs and sustains all things, and all things are to be used for His glory and according to His purposes.
Jesus Is the Mediator Between God and Man
Whenever two or more people or two or more groups have differences and are unable to reconcile on their own, or whenever one group has a standard that the group they desire to have a relationship with can’t meet, a mediator is needed. A mediator is one who works with both sides and can represent both appropriately. When the Bible talks about Jesus being the “one mediator between God and men,” it is stating that Jesus Christ is the only One Who can represent God to man and man to God (1 Timothy 2:5). In 1 Timothy 2:4, the apostle Paul says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” He then immediately says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Timothy 2:5) Paul connects coming to the knowledge of the truth with Jesus Christ, the only mediator between us and God. Therefore, without Jesus, there is no way for us to be represented before God.
Jesus is God
Implicit in every single one of the above paragraphs is the fact that Jesus Christ is Himself God, being the second member of the Trinity. The Bible is clear that God alone is Creator, and Jesus is affirmed as the Creator in the New Testament. Scripture only ever speaks of God as the Being that has all authority and power, and the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is the One Who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus received worship from people (Matthew 28:17; Luke 24:52), which is reserved only for God.
In addition to all of the implicit claims and demonstrations concerning Jesus’ deity, there are several places in the New Testament where Jesus is called God explicitly. “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5). “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). “…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13)
What Does This Mean?
The several different things I’ve listed about Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Bible is far from exhaustive. I didn’t talk about Him being fully God and fully man at the same time, or about His being the only acceptable sacrifice, or about His role as our high priest, and I didn’t even start on all of the prophecies He fulfilled. This article didn’t even really get past the surface. I will only address two important implications here.
1 – There Are No New Revelations of God
When I say there are no new revelations of God, I do not mean that God does not still speak or that He no longer reveals Himself in any way at all. God speaks all the time! What I mean is that when God reveals Himself now, it is always consistent with what He has already revealed about Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. There are no revelations of God that add to what has already been revealed. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself progressively, a little at a time. There is none of that today. Jesus was the greatest and final prophet, and there is no individual that can claim to have a word from God that reveals more than has already been said through Christ and the Scriptures. Sometimes you’ll hear of “new” revelations that are life changing and insightful. An examination of Scripture shows that what they’re talking about has already been given in the Bible, and their “revelation” is really just a rediscovery of what was said before.
Because the Old Testament points forward to Christ and the New Testament tells us all that God wanted us to know about Christ, the canon of Scripture is complete and there is nothing to be added.
2 – There Is Only One True Jesus, and Your Eternity Rests On What You Believe About Him
As was said at the beginning, if what you believe about a person is not in agreement with the facts about the person, the facts do not change. In such a case, what you believe about the person is not in accordance with what has already been established as true. It has been told to us Who Jesus is. Nobody gets to define Jesus or have personal opinions about Jesus. People can either believe in Jesus as He is or choose to reject the truth about Him.
I have found this helpful when evangelizing to people. Instead of getting into debates over belief differences or trying to argue theological facts, it is helpful to get to the most important issue. Ask them: “What do you believe about Jesus Christ?” If the Jesus they believe in isn’t God incarnate Who came to die for the sins of humanity, the Jesus Who created and owns all things, the Jesus Who reveals God fully and the Jesus Who is eternal, then they believe in the wrong Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), and, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). It is not possible to believe something about Jesus and it not define your eternity. As the One for Whom all things were created, everything is defined by its relationship to Jesus. We should have an urgency to see people be saved by believing in Christ. We should always ask, “What do you believe about Jesus Christ?”